Dustin Stogner said when his fiance became pregnant with their first child, the couple decided to leave Louisville, Kentucky, for a place that was calmer; a place where his family could be safe.
Finding used syringes where his child plays isn’t what he had in mind.
“I’ve seen (syringes) on the playground … they’re showing up all over town,” Stogner said. “It’s getting out of control.”
On Thursday while Stogner was with his son out by Dredge Lake, he saw another one, but this one had the cap off and the needle was exposed. He said it appeared to be part of a larger pile of trash that was illegally dumped in the area. With his child nearby, he photographed the area to post onto a Juneau community Facebook page to warn others.
“My concern was with my kid. I’m getting my 2-year-old out of the car and I look over and see that,” Stogner said. “You know how kids are, they pick up everything.”
Stogner’s post was just one of more than half a dozen this month alone, some also accompanied with a photo. Exposed needles were allegedly found near the Lemon Creek Trail Head, the Sprucewood Mobile Home Park and Wednesday night one was photographed by a car in the Fred Myer parking lot.
Officials from both the Juneau Police Department and Capital City Fire/Rescue have acknowledged that discarded needles are an issue, but solutions — at least for reporting and disposing — do exist.
Assistant Fire Chief Ed Quinto said the department has a process for safely disposing of syringes dropped of by members of the community.
“It’s free, convenient and we don’t ask any questions,” Quinto said. “We accept them from people who use them legally or illegally.”
The stations accepting syringes are Station 1 and 3, located at 820 Glacier Ave. and 1700 Crest Ave., respectively.
People who come across discarded syringes and want to pick them up using safe measures are encouraged to do so, but Quinto said staying clear of exposed needles and putting them in sealed containers before transporting them are key steps. So far, Quinto said the department has not received any reports of people being injured due to the abandoned syringes.
Whether the syringes found in the community are directly related to illegal drug use or are merely medical waste being illegally disposed of are not clear in most cases. People regularly drop needles off at the stations that are used for various reasons including diabetes medication, Quinto said. The stations are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All one needs to do is ring the door bell for service.
Stogner said he was only aware of a disposal site at the Alaska Aids Assistance Association on South Franklin Street. A crowd sourcing map started by a KTOO employee also left off the two fire stations that accept syringe drop-offs.
Regardless, finding more places to drop off needles isn’t the solution Stogner said he’s looking for. He said a place like Juneau with a population just over 30,000 shouldn’t have more abandoned syringes than his hometown Louisville where more than half a million people live — especially in the parks and fields where he takes his child to play.
“I’m angry,” he said. “I’m tired of explaining to my 2-year-old what syringes look like and not to pick them up.”
• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at email@example.com.